The Perils and Pitfalls of Overtraining

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by Janine Bryant for The Dance Journal

It’s performance season. You are in heavy rehearsals, possibly taking extra classes or supplementing your daily routine with extra work for a specific role, and generally working your body harder than during the off-season.

Dancers are the athletes of the performing world! High legs, multiple turns, falls, and seemingly weightless jumps are genre-specific requirements that are achieved at a price. This article discusses overtraining detection, the symptoms of which can often be overlooked as something else but, when experienced over a period of time, could actually end a dance career.

What does overtraining feel like?

  • Performance decline for more than 2 weeks
  • Mood disturbances/depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Injury, re-injury, and slow recovery from injury
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Physical weakness
  • Lack of motivation or desire to dance and participate in other activities you generally enjoy
  • Brain fogginess
  • Frequent illness

If you’re experiencing several of these symptoms simultaneously for more than a week or two, don’t disregard them.

Overtraining symptoms can last as long as 6 months, which is why dancer-athletes should program intervals of rest and recovery into their training regimes.

Here are a few easy things to pay attention to:

  • Resting heart rate: a chronically elevated RHR could be indicative of poor recovery. Take pulse every morning and see if you notice a trend.
  • Reaction time: some research shows that psychomotor function may be impaired in athletes who are over trained, and this could be revealed by reduced or impaired reaction time.
  • Mental/emotional stress: Feeling flustered, rushed, anxious, angry, etc.
  • Fatigue (mental/physical energy): Are you waking up tired? Not feeling rested after a night’s sleep? Limbs feeling heavier than usual?
  • Sleep quality (insomnia/disrupted sleep?): If you take hours to fall asleep, or wake up at the same time every night, pay attention. That isn’t optimal sleep.
  • Injury/soreness: Are you becoming sorer, more injured?
  • Illness (immune system suppression): Are you getting sick more often? Have a nagging cold that isn’t getting better?
  • Hydration status (what color is your urine?): Ideally, it should be light yellow, not dark yellow.
  • Motivation (how excited or passionate are you about dancing/training/life today?): You will have up and down days, but if you find you are no longer looking forward to dance, not wanting to eat healthy, and you stopped caring about supplemental training, pay attention.
  • Physical performance: Is your performance in your dance classes/activities improving or getting worse?
  • Mood: How happy are you today?

Track these things for about 2 weeks, and especially during a time of intense physical demand, such as preparing for a performance:

  • Nutrition/supplementation
  • Hydration
  • Sleep time/quality
  • Mental/emotional stress
  • Relaxation
  • Injury rehab
  • Soft tissue work

Check out this information and more at:

Until next time, friends, dance healthy and strong!

Janine Bryant
Director of Dance Programs
Eastern University
St. Davids, Pa.
[email protected]